The Song of Lunch Reviews:
This play is an ode to a time gone by, when lunch was more than a meal but an occupation in itself. It’s almost a shock to find such a thoroughly grown-up enterprise on the Edinburgh Fringe. Robert Bathurst of Cold Feet fame and Rebecca Johnson (The Trip etc) star in Christopher Reid’s verse play, last seen in 2010 in a TV adaptation with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson.
“He leaves a message, a yellow sticky, on the dead black of his computer,” we are told. “ ‘Gone to lunch. I may be some time’. His colleagues won’t be seeing him for the rest of the afternoon. Rare joy of truancy, of bold escape from the trap of work!”
The man, middle-aged and yearning for the life he almost had, doesn’t have a name, only a story to tell us, as he escapes from his desk job as a book editor to meet an old flame.
He’s made a reservation at a little Italian in Soho, their former favourite haunt. He slips around the back streets until he sees its familiar hoarding, unchanged. He wishes he could say the same for himself.
Most of the story of The Song of Lunch is told by the man, whose overly romantic expectations are on display for everyone (including his old flame) to see. She’s come in from Paris where she’s living with her husband, a novelist (the man hates him because he stole her from him) and their children. She is soignée, sexy and (he hates this too) not drinking nearly enough.
The man has ordered chianti, for old time’s sake, wishing it still came cradled in the rustic wicker holder. As their lunch progresses (or should I say lurches), animations by Charles Peattie dance across the backdrop. The combination of silhouetted figures behind real ones creates a powerful aura as the narrative, of love and loss and loos, unfolds.
She orders water, he’s thinking about another bottle. Bathurst, whose face flicks effortlessly from middle-aged disappointment to expectation and back again, is brilliant. Yet Johnson is as good, encapsulates a woman who has something to say, wanting to give an important message to the man she perhaps once loved.
Jason Morell directs what is a joy from start to finish. It’s a gem.
The Real Thing Reviews:
“Rebecca Johnson is also formidable as his betrayed wife.” – The Stage
“Johnson adds weight and authority to the underwritten role of Charlotte” – The Express
All Our Children Reviews:
“Meanwhile Rebecca Johnson possesses the canny ability of underplaying Martha, blending her into the background as the all-seeing eye, then bringing her to the fore with magnificent force, appropriately. Her beautifully emotive performance in the final scene moved me to tears.” – Break A Leg
“There is strong support from Rebecca Johnson as Victor’s devout housemaid…” – The Guardian
“Rebecca Johnson as the maid, Martha, ticks along nicely but then in her final monologue speaks so softly and passionately that it is totally engrossing to watch.” – Theatre Weekly
“A powerful work with powerful performances the real shame is that the Jermyn Street Theatre isn’t a bigger venue for more people to see this.” View From The Cheap Seat
Present Laughter Reviews:
“… But there are incidental pleasures everywhere, from Rebecca Johnson’s sensible ex-wife…” – What’s On Stage
“…They all connected perfectly with their characters, Johnson was a superb match for West, bringing the right mixture of assertiveness and heart to Liz…” – Break A Leg
“… Rebecca Johnson is appropriately pragmatic as Garry’s ever-loving ex-wife Liz…” – A Younger Theatre
The Dog in the Manger Reviews:
“At times, Diana, played with a superb, highly erotic hauteur by Rebecca Johnson, can seem cruelly cold and calculating. At others she is devastated by the conflict between her desire and her duty.” – The Telegraph
“Rebecca Johnson’s Diana is a superbly contradictory mix of iron propriety and bubbling passion.” – The Guardian
“Johnson’s stiff, brocaded dress gives her the stern profile of a chess piece. She articulates beautifully the contemporary language of David Johnston’s translation and combines a sharp and caustic wit with vulnerability when her guard is down.” – The Stage
“Rebecca Johnson is excellent as Diana, ruthless when she wants her own way, callous towards anyone who might affect her happiness, yet vulnerable when she realises her true feelings for secretary Teodoro.” – British Theatre Guide
“Rebecca Johnson is delightful as the beautiful, hot-cold Diana, with her confusion of mixed messages.” – A Curtain Up
“Richard Digby Day, as director, has assembled a first-rate cast that includes Frank Barrie as the worldly Wheeler, Justin Butcher and Rebecca Johnson as the tormented lovers.” – The Guardian
The Vortex Reviews:
“Especially fine work from Rebecca Johnson as Florence’s truth-telling friend.” – The Telegraph
“Kerry Fox valuably stresses her formidable will-power and the determined blindness to the needs of other people as when, in this version, she soaks up a full kiss on the lips from her tartly penetrating confidante (pitch-perfect Rebecca Johnson) while serenely disregarding the possibly lesbian devotion it betokens.” – The Independent
“Rebecca Johnson […] brings exceptional candour and sensibility (plus a surprise touch of Sapphic desire) to her role as Florence’s confidante.” – The Reviews Hub